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Falling overboard - just as easy from a dinghy

by Cape Coral Sail and Power Squadron/Sail-World on 17 Dec 2013
Overboard - so simple, even on a calm day .. .
There's much talk about falling overboard from sailing boats, but don't forget it's much easier to fall overboard when you are in a dinghy or other small craft, simply because it might seem a more innocent activity.

Most boating fatalities from small boats occur in nice weather during daylight hours when weather and visibility are good. Fatal accidents typically occur when someone, usually in a small boat, falls overboard and drowns.


As skipper of your vessel, even if it is just the dinghy or some other small craft, you are responsible for the safety of everyone aboard - even if you let someone else drive. Also, as the owner you could be held liable for any damage caused by it, no matter who is driving.

Despite ideal conditions boats do capsize and sometimes swamp and people end up in the water unexpectedly. When a small craft is underway it is a good safety measure to have everyone wearing a life jacket.

Small boats have ignition safety kill switches that have a cord that should be attached to the operator’s wrist, clothes or life jacket.

No one should sit on the gunwales or any other area not designed for seating, including the bow. The vessel’s centre of gravity should be low, not overloaded and when underway everyone should be seated. Don’t unexpectedly accelerate or drastically reduce speed without warning all aboard the boat. Be prepared and prevent someone finding themselves in the water.

If someone falls overboard - and it does happen, you need to reduce speed and have someone continuously point to the victim while you run a reciprocal course to the victim in the water.

Toss the victim a throwable cushion or life ring. Lift the victim over the transom AFTER you have cut your motor in gear.

If you should capsize or swamp, stay with the boat if possible. Your boat is a lot easier to see than heads in the water. Signal for help using visual distress signals, whistles and mirrors.

Training is important for boaters of all experience levels, but especially the new boater.

Did you know that 84 percent of accidents involving fatalities occur on boats where the operator had no formal instruction on how to operate the vessel?

Boating safety, as they say, is no accident!

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